Wild Swimming – Take the plunge with your four-legged friend

Wild swimming is a great activity to share with your furry friend, and it’s really taking off. It’s a fun, free activity that takes great advantage of the UK’s most naturally beautiful locations – and you can often enjoy away from the crowds!

Here are a couple of tips if you’re taking your dog for the first time. Get it right and this can be the most exhilarating fun you can have together!

  • Find somewhere small and quiet so you can both focus on each other, make sure you get in first so they can see it is safe and don’t swim out too far to begin with.
  • A harness with a handle on the top is really helpful so you can hold your dog whilst they practice and build up their confidence, not every dog loves getting wet!
man swimming with dog
One man and his dog: swimming in harmony

South and South East England

Inland Waters: As the Thames meanders through Oxfordshire and Berkshire there are some lovely tranquil spots with easy access for you and your dog. The Grantchester Meadows in Cambridgeshire offers slightly warmer water as do the Great Ouse, Suffolk Stour and Norfolk Broads. Hampshire boasts the rivers Wyle, Test and Itchen (all shallow chalk streams). In Surrey and Sussex there are plenty of ancient wooded lakes.

Thames River. Oxford, England
River Thames near Iffley Lock. Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK

Coastal Waters: It may sound daunting but Hellfire corner, St Margaret’s Bay, Dover is great all year round as is Tide Mills in Newhaven, East Sussex. Cuckmere Meanders in Sussex, where the oxbow lakes are cut off from the main stream and sea, is very safe with no tide or current; a great setting with the option of sea swimming as well.

South West England

Inland Waters: For some wonderful river swimming try the Fowey, Dart and Barlein in Devon and Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin. Some of the prettiest chalk streams, pools and weirs can be found in Somerset, Dorset and the New Forest. Try Warleigh Weir near Claverton in Somerset with secluded spots just a short walk down the river.

The turquoise sea in Polperro Harbour is perfect for a dip with your dog

Coastal Waters: It’s always a mini-adventure here with a craggy coastline and hidden coves to discover. Lansallos Cove at Polperro in Cornwall is sheltered with fresh clear water. West Bay East Beach near Bridport, Dorset offers 2 shingle beaches plus a lifeguard in the summer holidays. At the most southerly tip of Devon is Moor Sands, a very tempting and remote spot.


Inland Waters: Enjoy waterfall, quarry pools and the gorges of Snowdonia amidst a magical landscape. To get a bit higher go to Llyn-y-Fan Fach in the shadow of the Black Mountains and home to a legendary nymph! Horsehoe Falls in the Brecon Beacons are a set of forested plunge pools and gorges, so incredibly dramatic.

Llyn-y-Fan Fach - The Black Mountain
The striking Llyn-y-Fan Fach amidst the Black Mountains

Coastal Waters: Here are some places off the beaten track. Porth Wen at Bull Bay on the Gower Peninsula with a blue pool carved out of the rock is thought to be one of the best plunge pools in Britain.  The Pembrokeshire Coast has spectacular caves, islands and secret beaches. Cardigan Bay boasts a crescent shaped coastline, perfect to take your dog swimming. You may see the resident dolphins too!

Central England

A magical landscape that includes the Pennines with the Peak District at its centre and a host of enchanting mermaid pools. On a bend of the River Derwent there are long stretches of still water where you can also enjoy fantastic Chatsworth parkland views. Near Ross-on-Wye there are small sandy bays at Symonds Yat and further north is Carding Mill Valley Reservoir in Shropshire.

Chatsworth House
The still waters of the River Derwent with Chatsworth House in the background

North West England 

Home to the UNESCO designated Lake District with over 16 stretches of water to choose from as well as rivers and lofty tarns. Try spectacular Wastwater, with shelved beaches and stunning scenery, or Peel Island on Coniston with a rocky headland and sandy coves. Loughrigg Tarn is a beautiful, small and relatively warm body of water at the foot of the Langdale Pikes. Gaddings Dam near Todmorden, Yorkshire offers England’s highest beach, and in Cheshire at Ellesmere there’s an area of nine glacial meres (Colemere is the most beautiful and remote!).

Wyndham Lakes Day 1 (112 of 145)
Take a wild swim in Ullswater, Lake District

North East England

Broomlee Lough in Northumberland is a large open tarn below a crag, once one of the great forts of Hadrian’s Wall. Along the delightful River Coquet there’s easy access from the banks and at Featherstone there is a great swimming spot on the South Tyne near the castle. In the Yorkshire Dales you can swim at the foot of England’s highest unbroken waterfall: Hardraw Force, or go to Bolton Abbey with a popular stretch of river off the beach in front of the Priory ruins.

Bolton Abbey. Yorkshire, England
Swim in the shadow of Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire


Inland Waters: Loch Ness has to be top of your list. Although chilly there are lots of quiet spots to enjoy the stunning surroundings – just watch out for Nessie! Immerse yourselves in the magic of the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye with crystal clear water straight from the mountains. In the heart of the Cairngorms is Loch Morlich: a magnificent setting with a cafe to enjoy afterwards.

Skara Brae on the Bay of Skaill
The Bay of Skaill with Skara Brae in the foreground

Coastal Waters: With over 6,000 miles of coast you’ll be spoilt for choice. Around the Orkney Islands you can swim in the Atlantic one day and the Bay of Skaill in the North Sea on another. On the west coast you will find Arisaig stretching out to the north; it’s full of warm inlets influenced by the Gulf Stream.

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